Friday, June 23, 2017

Mini Review: Empire of Storms - Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms
Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #5
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I feel like at this point there's no reason to write reviews for the Throne of Glass series - by now, pretty much everyone has decided whether or not they want to read the series. But while reading Empire of Storms, I felt compelled to write a little bit about it.

One thing that Sarah J. Maas never fails to include in her books is strong female characters, and these strong female characters come in many different forms. There's Aelin, who I can't even really begin to explain her strength because it's on all kinds of levels; there's Manon, who is a ferocious, wyvern-riding witch; there's Elide, who isn't ferocious or magically powerful, but is decisive, smart, independent, and fiercely loyal; there's Lysandra, who can shapeshift and who throws herself into danger to protect her friends; and there's, a fairly new character, Ansel, who is a trained assassin.

Sure, it's impressive in and of itself that Sarah J. Maas is able to build these strong characters, but what's more noteworthy to me is that all these powerful women support each other - rather than being pit head to head (although there's been a little bit of that throughout the series because of obvious plot reasons), we get to see these women banding together. Paired with how territorial and ridiculously some of the men behave in the books, and it's just wonderful.

Anyway, I am definitely a lover of the Throne of Glass series, and if you haven't decided if you want to read it or not yet, I'm Team Read TOG because these characters are so fierce and wonderful. And, I mean, the rest of it is good too.

Who's your favorite strong female character?
Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: Trusting You & Other Lies - Nicole Williams

Trusting You & Other Lies
Nicole Williams
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams delivers a seductive summer romance worth swooning over. Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Stephanie Perkins.

Phoenix can't imagine anything worse than being shipped off to family summer camp. Her parents have been fighting for the past two years--do they seriously think being crammed in a cabin with Phoenix and her little brother, Harry, will make things better?

On top of that, Phoenix is stuck training with Callum--the head counselor who is seriously cute but a complete know-it-all. His hot-cold attitude means he's impossible to figure out--and even harder to rely on. But despite her better judgment, Phoenix is attracted to Callum. And he's promising Phoenix a summer she'll never forget. Can she trust him? Or is this just another lie?

This one really ticked off all the right boxes for me. It was such a sweet romance/coming-of-age story, and there were so many things I loved about this story.

  • I was sort of won over with the whole family summer camp thing. It was a great setting for this story, and I thought Williams used it brilliantly. This was a story of a broken family in need of healing. Phoenix's father had lost his job two years prior, and had not been able to get his mojo back. That, coupled with her parents constant bickering, and both of them being so closed off from the rest of the family really warranted this off-site setting. The family was forced to spend more time together, and this proximity was bound to result in them actually talking and working through their issues. 
  • Harrison, aka Harry was a little packet of awesome. This kid played true to age, but he was also so astute and often the voice of reason. I loved the bond he shared with Phoenix, and could not help but cheer for him with each small success he enjoyed. 
  • Callum, *sigh*. I wore a smile on my face almost every time he was on page. I adored this rugged, manly-man, who was trying to rise above his circumstances. He had a good heart, even if some of his decisions were not always right. 
  • You knew it was coming, the romance! Callum and Phoenix were great together. Their relationship was so honest, and they were able to connect and share things with each other, that they had previously not shared with anyone else. They listened to each other, had some really mature discussions (Bravo Ms. Williams!), and most of all, forgave each other when they made mistakes. 
  • Speaking of forgiveness, there are a lot of characters in this book, who needed forgiving. I love that this theme was explored, because it's realistic. People make mistakes and disappoint us, but because we love them, we will forgive them. 
  • Another HUGE theme in this book is lying. Williams puts the characters in several different types of situations, where they omit facts or lie. Sometimes the lies are for a good reason, sometimes they aren't. I liked the way she explored this grey area in this story, because it really worked in this case. We lie to protect someone, we lie so as not to hurt their feelings, we lie because we don't accept the truth. There are so many reasons why we lie, and Williams really gave me a lot to think about with respect to this issue. 
  • This book is about heavy things, but it's a rather light read. I am a fan of the fluff. This one is not too fluffy, it has plenty of depth, and angst. Phoenix is angsty, but it's just the right amount of drama for me. Williams balanced out the happy with the sad, the deep with the shallow. I felt plenty of emotions without falling into the emotional abyss. 
  • Growth, there is so much growth. I don't know if there were any main players who left Camp Kismet as the same person they were at the beginning of the summer. Phoenix, Callum, Harry, heck, even mom and dad all grew and changed. I always find it a positive thing, that when a character must suffer some pain in their life, they are made better from the experience. 
  • A good epilogue goes a long way. Williams wrapped this one up in a bow with a lovely epilogue, which left me feeling happy and satisfied. 
Overall: This was lovely story of love, family, and forgiveness. 

**Thank you to the publisher for the review copy.

This book takes place at a family summer camp. The characters engage in running, hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting, and of course, arts and crafts. 

What is your favorite summer camp activity?
Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Can't-Wait Wednesday: What to Say Next - Julie Buxbaum

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I can't wait for What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum.

What to Say Next
Julie Buxbaum
Series: n/a
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Waited on by: Amrutha
Sometimes a new perspective is all that is needed to make sense of the world.

KIT: I don’t know why I decide not to sit with Annie and Violet at lunch. It feels like no one here gets what I’m going through. How could they? I don’t even understand.

DAVID: In the 622 days I’ve attended Mapleview High, Kit Lowell is the first person to sit at my lunch table. I mean, I’ve never once sat with someone until now. “So your dad is dead,” I say to Kit, because this is a fact I’ve recently learned about her.

When an unlikely friendship is sparked between relatively popular Kit Lowell and socially isolated David Drucker, everyone is surprised, most of all Kit and David. Kit appreciates David’s blunt honesty—in fact, she finds it bizarrely refreshing. David welcomes Kit’s attention and her inquisitive nature. When she asks for his help figuring out the how and why of her dad’s tragic car accident, David is all in. But neither of them can predict what they’ll find. Can their friendship survive the truth?
HELLO FRIENDS, my annual back-for-the-summer posting is beginning again. I FINALLY started reading Julie Buxbaum's Tell Me Three Things the other day and so far, it's super good and the book just generally has great reviews.

What to Say Next sounds just up my alley -- contemporary which basically promises a bunch of character development from the beginning of the blurb. Buxbaum has been compared to Rainbow Rowell before but the summary of this story can't help but remind me of When Eleanor Meets Park, a book that I adored.

Stay tuned for updates on What to Say Next because you better believe I am waiting for it to arrive!!

What are you waiting on?
Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Have Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is...

Top Ten Series I Have Been Meaning To Start But Haven't!

Kiersten's Picks

The Raven Cycle
Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Admittedly, the first time I heard about The Raven Boys a few years back I was not interested - the blurb just didn't grab me, so then I never read it. But after hearing more about the series and seeing Maggie Stiefvater on various book event panels, it has moved up my list of series to read. I ALMOST got to read it a few months ago after waiting for the first book at the elibrary, but there was a mishap with my card being expired and it still auto-checked-out the book. However, I got back on the waitlist again, and it is almost my turn!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Looking at my TBR on Goodreads, the first book in this series is one of the first books I added to my shelves when I started my account, which is really sad because I've heard so many good things about this series.

Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen

I think the reason I've yet to read this series (or at least the first book) is because somewhere in my head I told myself that I remembered seeing that the first book is 800 pages long, which is definitely not true, and I'm not sure where I came up with that. I haven't read any angel books in a while, so this seems like a great option!

The Winner's Trilogy
Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Honestly, they're so pretty that I feel like it's reason enough to read them. Besides that, I've heard so many great things about this story, and I heard the love interest is swoony. Plus, it's dystopian, which is one of my favorite genres.

Susan Kaye Quinn
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

In my experience with Susan Kaye Quinn books, I have never been disappointed. From a book about mindreading to a "Bollypunk" fantasy romance, every story is so well executed. Which makes it even sillier that I haven't read this series yet despite having it!

Sam's Picks

As expected, this list is endless, but since I can only pick 5 to share, I had to come up some criteria for the selection process. I decided upon sifting through my list, that I will narrow it down to the series, which I have no excuse for not starting. These series have been fairly well received, and I own the first book in the series. It is my goal to be able to tell you in December, that I have read the first book in each of these five series.

Strange House Series
Kathleen Baldwin
Publisher: Tor Teen

I was lucky enough to win the first book in the series, and I was really excited to read it. Spies, boarding school, scientific inventions, romance -- this book has tons of interesting elements, which I would definitely enjoy. It also has a lot of great reviews. I really do want to read this, since it sounds great and I tend to enjoy historical fiction when I read it too.

Monsters of Verity Series
Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

I fell in love with Schwab's writing through the Shades of Magic books. I was really excited about this series when I first heard about it, and quickly added it to my TBR. Monsters and the fight between good and evil is so classic, and I know Schwab did an amazing job with it, because there are scads and scads of stellar reviews. I was so eager to read this, that I personally bought a copy of this book. Now, I must hang my head in shame for not reading it.

The Forgetting
Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic Press

I was so excited when I got this book at BEA last year. "What isn't written, isn't remembered. Even your crimes." This idea, that you have one day, when you can establish a clean slate or you can take total advantage and be as bad as you want to be. But there is one person, who remembers it all. Sounds great, right? I had every intention of reading it. I was doing a great job with the BEA books. I read at least 1 every week, but then Kiersten took some books to school, and you know, out of sight, out of mind.

Jennifer Echols
Publisher: Simon Pulse

This is another book I won in a giveaway. Now, I know what you are thinking. This is exactly the kind of book I would love. A cute, contemporary romance, which leans towards the fluffy side. It's my signature read. And Echols is an author, who is well liked. I deserve to be shamed for this one sitting unread.

The Fixer
Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

I kept seeing reviews for this thriller popping up everywhere, and I like to read a good thriller every once in a while. The blurb talks about this girl, who is thrust into this world of politics and power, and becomes the one who "fixes" her peers' problems, but being the fixer gets Tess involved in something much bigger. Count. Me. In. Put it on the TBR, bought the book, and then...never read it.

What series have you been meaning to start?
Let us know in the comments!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: More of Me - Kathryn Evans

More of Me
Kathryn Evans
Series: n/a
Genre: Young Adult, SciFi
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Teva goes to school, studies for her exams, and spends time with her friends. To the rest of the world, she’s a normal teenager. But when she goes home, she’s anything but normal. Due to a genetic abnormality, Teva unwillingly clones herself every year. And lately, home has become a battleground. When boys are at stake, friends are lost, and lives are snatched away, Teva has a fight on her hands—a fight with herself. As her birthday rolls around, Teva is all too aware that time is running out. She knows that the next clone will soon seize everything she holds dear. Desperate to hang on to her life, Teva decides to find out more about her past . . . and uncovers lies that could either destroy her or set her free.
Teva, version 16, is well aware of her fate. She knows she has one year to be the Teva who interacts with the outside world. She has one year to live her whole life before she is replaced by Teva version 17, and is then forced to spend her days locked away with her previous versions. But it appears the later version Tevas are not happy with this arrangement, and they are willing to fight for the right to live their lives, but will Teva survive long enough to accomplish this task?

When I first discovered this book, I thought the concept sounded really interesting. I love science, and genetics is an ever-evolving and growing field. I have to admit, when I started reading this book, it was a little weird, but then I remembers, SciFi books not set in space are a little weird, therefore, I kept reading. I am glad I gave this book a chance, because the story did hit its groove, and I grew to enjoy reading about all the Tevas.

Something I really liked, was trying to figure out if this was legit or if we were dealing with an unreliable narrator. Evans did a great job keeping me in that grey area. I was vacillating between the two scenarios, and found myself analyzing past passages to figure out if there were really clones or was it all in Teva's head. Well play, Ms. Evans.

I also thought Evans blended these out-of-the-ordinary parts very well with the ordinary parts of every day life. These Tevas never came across as science experiments or less than human. In fact, the two oldest versions, fifteen and Teva, were preoccupied with such average teen girl issues, that it read almost like a contemporary (my favorite genre). That SciFi twist added an extra layer to the story and brought up the intrigue factor.

The story was interesting, and there were some great characters supporting this story. Two of my favorite were Maddy, Teva's best friend, and Tom, Teva's classmate. Maddy was a fun and faithful friend, who challenged and supported Teva. Tom provided most of the comic relief, in my opinion. His character was quite amusing, but we did get to see that he had some depth later on, and I really loved where Evans went with him.

Now, I am going deep. When I was trying to decide if the multiple versions were real or not, I started thinking of them metaphorically. This idea, that each year you shed your younger self, thus emerging with some of your former thoughts and beliefs, but also open to forming new ones. I even saw some symbolism in the physical pains Teva experienced as her new, older self was battling to emerge. Growing up is hard and can be painful, and I thought this was illustrated in an interesting way throughout the book. OR that was totally not the author's intention, and I am reading into it too much. Either way, I love that it made me think so much.

Overall: An interesting portrait of growing up sprinkled with romance, mystery, drama, and humor.

**I would like to thank the publisher for the advanced copy of this book. Quotes are from an ARC and may change upon publication.

In one of my favorite parts of this book, one of the characters talks about how they will get coffee, lots and lots of coffee. It was a very sweet declaration in its context, but it made me think, that would be wonderful, because I love coffee. 

Do you like coffee?
Let us know in the comments!